Understanding of Islam by the French President
Umm Zahra – freelance writer
The birth month (Rabi-ul-Awwal) of Prophet Muhammad (sa) brings global controversies. It seems that a new assault against Islam is lurking in the dark. Just recently we heard the French President Emmanuel Macron defending France’s secular values and state: “Islam is a religion that is in crises all over the world today.” He announced a law against religious “separatism” and outlined new measures to “defend the republic and its values and ensure it respects its promises of equality and emancipation.”
“Today, so-called “secular” hatred towards Muslims has become a part of everyday speech for the French government as well as its media. French Muslims keep asking Macron to stop stigmatizing them, but his normalization of hate speech against Islam has almost legitimized the institutionalized discrimination towards the France’s Muslim community.” (Daily Sabah)
Much of it happened in 2015 when Charlie Hebdo a satirical newspaper that has a reputation for standing up to authority, confronting what is held sacred or questioning any group claiming supremacy published cartoons that mocked Islam on a number of occasions.
In 2015 the magazine printed numerous images that insulted the Prophet Muhammad in a move that provoked Muslims for who drawing the prophet is considered blasphemous and prohibited in the Quran. In simple terms, the editors of the “irresponsible magazine”(their own words) hurt the feelings of believers of Islam. This led to a reaction and armed gunmen killed staff at the newspaper. Members of the French Muslim community denounced the act of terror while protesting their right to sanctity of faith in future.
Recently a French History teacher showed the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (sa) in his class as gesture of freedom of speech. This teacher was later beheaded as an act of vengeance. Two Muslim women were killed as a further act of reactionary violence. Irresponsible freedom of speech became the death warrant of peace.
France has one of the largest number of Muslims in the Western world primarily due to migration from Maghrebi, West African, and Middle Eastern countries. A 2017 Pew Research report estimates the Muslim population of France to be 5,760,999 or 8.8% of the total population.
Islam is the second-most widely professed religion in France behind Christianity. Of an estimated six million Muslims in France, about 100,000 are thought to be converts. There are currently about 2,300 mosques in France with a further 200 to 250 planned.
Ironically, Alphonse De Lamartine, the famous French 18th century poet, historian and statesman, had a very different understanding of Muhammad (sa) than President Macron has today. He stated:
“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad. The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes.
This man not only moved armies, legislations, empires, people and dynasties but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls. On the basis of a Book, every letter of which has become law, he created a spiritual nationality, which blended together people of every tongue and of every race. He has left for us the undelible characteristic of this Muslim nationality, the hatred of false gods and the passion for the one and immaterial God.
Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness maybe measured we may well ask, is there any man greater than he is?”
(Historledela, Turquie, Paris, Vol.1, pp.276-277 by Lamartine).
Islam, Muslims and our holy book The Quran, recognizes Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (sa) to be our glorious prophets. Any slander, mockery or bigotry against them is unacceptable. If the secular world deems itself cultured, civilized and forward looking, it will have to redefine their definition of freedom of speech that is demeaning and hurtful to devout followers of various faiths.
However, these ugly controversies are also great opportunities for the Muslim community to come forward and exhibit the facts. They must engage wisely and with justice as were the traits followed by our noble Prophet Muhammad (sa). They must:
- Practice the faith in letter and spirit while trade and other engagements with non-Muslims.
- Write more frequently on the social media educating the world about Islam’s vision and values.
- Produce such digital content for mainstream media that represents true Muslim ideology.
- Build museums and other recreational centres that show life and times of who our heroes are (present and past).
- Highlight effectively Muslim’s contribution towards peace and progress of the world currently living in non-Muslim as well as Muslim nations.
As of 2020, 1.9 billion or about 24.5% of the world population are Muslims. Can their sentiments be disregarded by the world? I think not.